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Wendy Davis backs limited late-term abortion ban, despite historic filibuster

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Jan. 9, 2014: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis speaks at an education roundtable meeting in Arlington, Texas. (AP)

The Texas Democrat who built a national profile and launched her state gubernatorial bid on the heels of an 11-hour filibuster against a late-term abortion bill is softening her stance, in the latest tilt to the center as she courts red-state voters.

Wendy Davis told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board this week that she could have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, if certain changes to the bill were made. Davis famously filibustered against a 20-week abortion ban bill last year, but she explained that her problem with the bill wasn’t the 20-week threshold.

She said that while the bill — which eventually was approved despite her opposition — made exceptions for fetal abnormalities and cases where the woman’s life is in danger, those provisions didn’t go far enough.

“My concern, even in the way the 20-week ban was written in this particular bill, was that it didn’t give enough deference between a woman and her doctor making this difficult decision, and instead tried to legislatively define what it was,” Davis told the editorial board.

Plus she objected to the restrictions on clinics and doctors, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“It was the least objectionable,” she said of the 20-week ban. “I would have and could have voted to allow that to go through” if changes were made. 

The comments, like other recent positions she’s taken, have perturbed some on the left.

The liberal website ThinkProgress said Davis’ stance “simply doesn’t make sense.”

“If the goal is to ‘give enough deference’ to women who are making complicated decisions about their reproductive health, and allow medical professionals to exercise their own judgment about their patients’ care without being hampered by the legislature, that’s directly undermined by the enactment of a ban,” a post from the site said, adding: “Politically, however, Davis’ stance is all too understandable.”

Last week, Davis also announced that she’d support a proposed “open carry” law — which would allow people with concealed handgun licenses to wear a pistol on their hip, in full view, while in public.

The position puts her on the same page as top Republican rival Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general.

But her party and influential Democratic colleagues disagreed with her comments.

"There is little or no public safety justification for open carry," said Emmanuel Garcia, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party.

History suggests that Davis' position is a pragmatic one. Former Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat, vetoed a concealed handgun measure, but Republican George W. Bush made it a major campaign issue when he defeated Richards for governor.

Abbott spokesman Adviel Huerta panned the statement as political.

"Sen. Wendy Davis' new pro-gun stance may help improve her low grade with the NRA, but it won't help it won't help her (be) a straight shooter when it comes to the facts of her anti-gun record," Huerta said.

But veteran Democratic consultant Harold Cook said Abbott supporters have already tried to portray Davis as anti-gun.

"If the issue isn't important to you, then it would be smart to take it off the table by saying, `Me, too; now let's go back to talking about education and how we fund road building and the stuff the mainstream of Texas is really concerned with,"' he said.

Open carry is specifically allowed in 17 states, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. Many others leave it up to cities and counties to impose restrictions.

But laws in five states — including Texas — and Washington, D.C. specifically prohibit open carry of handguns, according to the gun rights advocacy group OpenCarry.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.